If there was a new video game out there called Underrated Guitar Hero… or “Unsung Guitar Hero” (to quote my friend Tatiana), Lindsey Buckingham would surely be on the cover. I have always known him to be nothing short of amazing, but last night’s concert at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus proved it once again. The man is a living legend, and that is not something I say lightly or very often.
I would love to see him on stage trading licks with bass legend Stanley Clarke. Okay, yes I have always said Stanley is a living legend and he is… He is the best living musician out there. There is something very similar about their styles and approach and the way they attack their instruments. Watching their fingers fly across those strings, seeing an instrument literally transformed into something else… That would be amazing…
The lights dimmed and Lindsey took the stage in a black leather jacket, his hair looking like a smaller Art Garfunkel. Toss in a little older Peter Frampton, too. The crowd was into it from the go, before he even played a note. The first few songs were just him and a guitar, the same way he would end the night. His power was remarkable in both string and voice and you could literally see him feeding off the crowd. He was glowing, basking in the adulation… and no, it wasn’t the spotlight, it was a pure connection. It was artist and audience bonding, needing each other… yearning for each other.
After many of the songs he would pump his fists and arms in a kind of celebration. LA audiences tend to be a bit staid. They tend to sit on their hands a bit and not fully commit to a show or an artist. This is why we do not get many “full album” shows out here… Case in point… Bruce… My Morning Jacket have all limited their complete album shows to the East Coast. This makes me nuts.
Not tonight. He was so pleased with the response, so happy and it was so damn genuine. Before each song there was always a moment of contemplation, as if he was putting himself back at the exact point of time he wrote the song, or at the moment of conception. He would talk a little bit, shake his hands to get them warmed up, and then, boom! With no pick, just fingers and finger nails, and every ounce of energy and passion and musical prowess, he would pounce on the strings of his guitar. His voice so deep and rich, resonating with a lot of years and stories behind it, but beautifully filled with such raw emotion and connection. His vocal chords were naked, as was his soul. To quote my friend Denise, he went from “a breathy whisper in your ear to guttural snarling and howling.”
When he and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, they were already a fully formed, songwriting duo. Their debut LP Buckingham Nicks has been discussed here and is absolutely wonderful… stunning. It ‘s those gifts that they brought to the table… or the “machine” as he called the super band last night. But his solo stuff is more personal, more raw. I guess being in a band with people who should not be in a band together (something he has said) created both magic and tension… love and pain. The hits and the heartbreak came at the same breakneck speed.
When he is alone, making solo records, all of that comes out. He is allowed to stop and contemplate and look back at what things meant then… and what they mean now. Last night’s show was just that… a contemplation on music and life, by both artist and audience. It was brilliant and moving and revelatory. It’s funny, but with time behind us, even the pain can provide a lot of joy… or at least a great song or three.
Lindsey Buckingham – Seeds we sow
Out Of The Cradle is my favorite solo project of his. I also love the Live at the Bass Performance Hall, but I have to say his performance last night should be out on CD… It was that good and even stronger than that record.
Seeds we sow was released just over a month ago. It is a fantastic album. He played five songs from it last night, declaring that the record might be the best thing he has done. The title track was his closing song and part of his three song encore. It was just him and his guitar and closed the night with that powerful whisper. This is one you really need to check out, but if you are unfamiliar with his solo records, do not miss Out Of The Cradle. It is beautiful and raw. “Street of Dreams” is a fricking heartbreaker.
He also did “In Our Own Time”, “Illumination”, “Stars Are Crazy”and “That’s the Way Love Goes” from the new one. I wish he had done “End of Time” and “Rock Away Blind”, too and of course “Don’t Look Down”, “Wrong” and the ironically, very Fleetwood Mac sounding “You Do Or You Don’t” from Out of the Cradle… but I ain’t complaining. Seriously. That is what happens when you have so much great music to choose from. Unless you are going to play for four hours, you can’t do it all. The Ben Folds show at The Wiltern disappointed me a bit… He played way too much new stuff and not enough of my favorite songs… It was good, not great. This show was stellar and this new album is a must have in your collection.
Lindsey is my true Guitar Hero. So take that Rock Band!